What to Expect When Ordering Medications Online in the U.K.

What should you expect when purchasing medications from an online pharmacy?

Online Pharmacy UK

Online pharmacies, like most modern trends, faced stern criticism as they moved to displace a well established sector of community life. As we move further into the digital era, the role of both online and local pharmacy is changing as a whole. A lot has been said about online pharmacies and there is a large amount of mis-information. So what should you expect when purchasing medications from an online pharmacy?

Prescription process

The procedure for purchasing prescription-only drugs at online pharmacies is the same as what you would get at a local pharmacy. A prescription is necessary before you can buy a prescription-only drug at an online pharmacy. Most online pharmacies have two options available.

You can either provide a valid prescription written by a licensed medical practitioner. When you give this information, it would be evaluated, and you can proceed to order your drugs. Where this is not available, online pharmacies would require you have an online medical consultation.

Online medical consultation can be conducted via a video call, a voice call, or an electronic questionnaire designed on the website for different medications. When you complete this, your request would be evaluated, and the relevant medication prescribed to you.

The cost of the medical consultation varies from one pharmacy to the next. Some registered online pharmacies in the United Kingdom offer free medical consultation services, where some you may need to pay. If an online pharmacy in the U.K. does not require any of these options, it is almost certainly operating outside of the legal structure.

Medications are generally cheaper

If you are purchasing drugs for the first time at an online pharmacy, you will find that the prices are much more competitive than what is offered at local pharmacies. Operating via the internet removes the need for costly overheads such as high-street shop front rent. As for any high street operator, these bills can be responsible for the increased prices at local pharmacies.

While the prices offered at online pharmacies are undoubtedly cheaper than local pharmacies, rogue online pharmacies can use this as a bait to catch unsuspecting buyers. As discussed, make sure the pharmacy you are looking at is operating legally in the U.K.

Multiple payment options

Payment options vary from one online pharmacy to another. You can find a payment option online pharmacy that would be missing on another. There is no specified payment method stated in the regulation of online pharmacies.

However, the most common payment options you would find at registered online pharmacies in the U.K. are a credit card, American Express, Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Electronic Cheques. A clear indication that a Pharmacy is not operating legally is if it accepts PayPal. PayPal have a blanket policy that they will not support any online pharmacy, so this is a good sign to watch out for.

Delivery of medication

Just as payment options vary, delivery options vary on different online pharmacies. Most online pharmacies in the U.K. deliver drugs through mail orders. These mail orders can be operated either via Royal Mail, or private courier service. Orders sent through private courier generally have a shorter delivery time as they are a direct-to-end-user service.

Some online pharmacies also offer an express delivery option which guarantees delivery on the same day (for orders placed in the morning) or the next working day. There is usually an extra charge attached to using this option.

The time it takes for your order to get to you also vary from pharmacy to pharmacy. Some online pharmacies offer multiple delivery options. While free delivery may take a few days to get to your location, same day delivery through their registered courier services can arrive on the same day.


Online pharmacies are required to package orders discretely. If you order from a reputable online pharmacy, the package should not contain any information about the drug or item contained in it.

Extra services

Online pharmacies have an added benefit over local pharmacies because of the extra services they offer at little to no cost. For example, you can chat with a general practitioner or pharmacist using the website of an internet pharmacy much faster than travelling to a local pharmacy.

Many of these pharmacies also offer medical information about each drug sold on the website. You would also find relevant information about many health conditions on the site of online pharmacies.

Risks of buying from an unlicensed online pharmacy

Unregistered or rogue pharmacies can be rife in this sub-sector. There are currently more unregistered online pharmacies than there are registered ones. Buying medications from these pharmacies put your health at risk as most unlicensed online drugstores sell fake or counterfeit drugs.

In addition to the potential risk to your health, you put your personal information at risk of misuse. To cope with the upsurge of unregistered pharmacies, agencies in the United Kingdom have put different measures in place to ensure that the public knows which online pharmacy is registered and which is not.

How to stay safe when buying from online pharmacies

To help the public identify a registered online pharmacy, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) operates a voluntary logo scheme for online pharmacies. You can search the GPhC registry here.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has a registry for all registered pharmacies in the U.K. You can check the You can check any pharmacy registration online via the MHRA website registry search to confirm if a pharmacy is registered before. The registry also includes all community pharmacies in the U.K.

Any pharmacy (including those operating online) listed on the GPhC and MHRA website register is a legally operating and registered pharmacy in the U.K. This registration means the pharmacy has regular strict inspections to check their suitability to operate.

What are my options?

While there are many rogue pharmacies online, using the information provided above, you should be able to work out if an online pharmacy which is operating legally in the U.K. Below are a few examples of online pharmacies you can trust.

  • Lloyds Pharmacy: Lloyds pharmacy has a good reputation. They have more than 1,500 high street stores around U.K. offering medical services, products, prescriptions, and advice.
  • Pharmica Pharmacy: Pharmica is registered by the MHRA and offers free medical consultation services. They offer free delivery in the U.K. which makes it a reliable option.
  • Boots Pharmacy: Probably the most well known pharmacy in the U.K. offering a wide range of prescription and non-prescription medication on the high street and online.
  • DrFox: A well established online-only pharmacy specializing mostly in ED treatments.
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